Rail officials hope new mural will keep vandals away

Volunteers painted over graffiti on a building located on the planned rail route Saturday morning.

In just a few years, Aiea will have a new rail station. The city purchased the property in 2012. It’s located on Kamehameha Highway near Kaonohi Street.

The building is now vacant and has become an eyesore. One business believes it’s costing them customers.

“It doesn’t look good at all if it’s just full of scribbles and graffiti all over the place. The wall is like that, the building is like that,” said Steve Ahmed of Car Stereo Express. “Nobody gonna come to a store surrounded with graffiti. It’s gonna make us look like a rundown neighborhood.”

Officials say painting over the graffiti just wasn’t working. But now, they’re taking a more creative approach. On Saturday, dozens of volunteers began painting a mural.

“What we find out is that if we’re able to invest in the community and get young people involved, and actually do a mural like this, there tends to be a respect that taggers will move on. And so we’re hoping that not only will we bring something beautiful to the community, but it will also be beneficial to the taxpayers because we won’t keep painting and painting over graffiti,” said Dan Grabauskas, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) executive director.

Students from Radford and Waipahu High Schools, along with kids from the Boys & Girls Club, joined in the fun. They’re aiming to make a difference in their community.

“If you just have regular graffiti, it invites more criminal activity. When you paint something beautiful, even those who want to tag are artists themselves. And they see this as art and they respect it and they leave it alone,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Officials say graffiti has also been a problem at other properties purchased by the city. One example is the old Dillingham Cafe in Kalihi.

Grabauskas say the mural in Aiea is pilot project. If it works, he hopes to replicate it at other properties along the rail line.

As for the rail project, officials say they are on schedule and on budget. The first 10 miles will be up and running for passengers in 2017. In 2019, passengers will be able to ride the full 20-mile stretch of rail.

According to officials, the building in Aiea will eventually be demolished. But in the meantime, they hope the mural will help beautify the community and keep the vandals away.

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